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Research Forest Lakeside, The Woodlands, Texas
Landscape Architecture by Clark Condon Associates, Houston



At the Research Forest Lakeside office development in the master-planned community of The Woodlands, Texas, water is the unifying element between the office buildings. The raised fountain was designed by Greenscape Pump Services, Inc. The rough stone edges produce white water and space filling sound. The vertical jet nozzles and 'Lumen 360' LEDs are from Fountain People. The height of the geysers and its central location make it the most visually prominent water element of the three water features on site. As this is an office drop-off, a ring of bollards (Fairweather, model B4-5A) protect pedestrians, and in-grade lighting (Specified Lighting, IV1) helps illuminate the pedestrian walkway. The covered walkway creates a "halo" around the fountain. Monkey Grass encircles the fountain, with seasonal colors added, including Calibrachoa.

Research Forest Lakeside is a premier office development in the internationally recognized master-planned community of The Woodlands, Texas (pop. 107,769). The Woodlands was conceived by oil investor George Mitchell and initially managed by the Woodlands Corp. The Woodlands is 28 miles north of Houston along Interstate 45.

In 2005, James and Daniel Warmack founded Warmack Investments and purchased a 77-acre campus on the edge of Lake Woodlands.


The series of unconnected water features begins with the raised fountain at the circular drop-off point, then seemingly transitions into a meandering rock edged stream that further downstream becomes a dry streambed that "connects" with Lake Woodlands. The raised fountain as the source of the meandering stream is artfully suggested. Large granite slabs of 'Elite Blue' and 'Cheyenne Gray' (Alamo Stone Co.) edge the steam. Two long granite slabs form bridges over the stream. The warm amber glow of the lighting under the slab bridges is achieved by LED strip lighting (Environmental Lights, Superflat LED).

"It became very clear, once we purchased the property, a campus on the edge of Lake Woodlands would be very desirable to corporations to locate their operations, given the amenities and a strong desire for families to live and work in close proximity," said James Warmack; thus the vision for Research Forest Lakeside began.

After the Great Recession (officially Dec. 2007 to June 2009), the Warmacks were quick to respond to an urgent need for new Class A office space, while respecting and leveraging the natural beauty and value of the lakefront location. Nestled between Lake Woodlands and abundant natural forest, the master plan for the redevelopment of the property had new office buildings splayed perpendicular along the water's edge to offer unobstructed views of Lake Woodlands. This arrangement created open spaces that extended from between the buildings. The thoughtfulness of the development preserved the area's natural, native landscape, very much in line with the environmental design principles elucidated by Scottish landscape architect Ian McHarg in Design with Nature. Those principles afford opportunities for enjoyment of the beautiful location from within and outside the office spaces.


The design of the gathering space between the office buildings is intended as a transition from the building architecture to the natural environment of the lake and surrounding forest. The flat space is structured with linear rows of elms and Series 600 lighted bollards. The elms will eventually provide a continuous canopy of shade. Crushed marble gravel paving, flagstones and movable tables and chairs ('Parc Center') lend a casual air to the space. The stream coursing through the middle of the courtyard can be heard throughout the courtyard, but is not visually dominant above ground.

Clark Condon Associates was selected as the landscape architect for the 77-acre mixed-use development. The project included "refreshing" the public open spaces and thoroughfares, as well as each of the new office and retail buildings. With the development of Buildings 4 and 5 arose an opportunity to create a space that would be integral to the two buildings and dramatically respond to the lake's proximity. Building on the master plan's framework of orienting new office buildings to the lake and thus capturing the value of that amenity, Clark Condon devised the concept of using water as the unifying element. That begins at the arrival/drop-off and continues through a courtyard space figuratively connecting with the lake below. A series of three unconnected water elements comprise the overall water feature experience.

The first part of the water feature is the raised cascading fountain in the middle of the circular drop-off. The scale of the fountain complements the dramatic arrival experience that is dominated by the circular "halo" hovering over the pedestrian walkway. The height of the fountain, with its vertical jets, makes it the most visually prominent water element of the three. The rough stone edge produces white water and space filling sound. At night, the lighted jets punctuate the center of the space.


As the ravine widens at the lower basin, the staggered slabs ease back from the water, allowing people to easily step down to the water's edge. 'Santa Fe' river rock cobbles make up the streambed. The small intimate space is just deep enough to provide some separation from the surrounding courtyard.

The second part of the water feature, and central to the courtyard space between the office buildings, is the stream. The meandering stream was envisioned to evoke a natural element, but was intentionally devised as man-made to complement the character of the buildings and the overall space. The stream begins at the upper level of the drop-off and descends downward toward the lake. The stream is perceived to cut down through the land that is formed by stone edges. Although granite is not indigenous to the Houston area, large slabs of the stone simulate the stratification of natural rock as water flows through and over it. The interior of the courtyard is connected by two long granite slabs that form bridges over the stream. At night, lighting under the bridges provides a warm amber glow, which further adds to the peaceful, ambient setting. The landscape architect worked closely with the fountain contractor to arrange and place the stones. The terminal basin at the bottom of the stream is several feet lower than the upper end of the stream and is configured to provide an intimate space for sitting below the surrounding courtyard. Surrounding the stream are casual gathering areas with moveable tables and chairs amongst shade trees and gravel paving. The soft sound of the babbling stream enhances the relaxed setting. Both the stream and the drop-off fountain are independently operated and controlled with their own underground mechanical vaults.

The third part beyond the lower basin is a rock-lined, meandering dry streambed that makes the final visual connection to the lake. Established water loving Iris line the middle while perennials, wildflowers and native grasses extend outward from the stream edge. This part of the water feature slows and filters localized storm water runoff before it enters the lake.


The stream transitions to a meandering dry creek bed of river rock, the final implied connection to Lake Woodlands. Within the bed are extensive plantings of Big Blue agapanthus, Gregg's mistflower, Louisiana iris, Turk's Cap, Purple Trailing lantana, Gulf muhly grass, rudbeckia and Giant spierwort. It also slows and filters stormwater runoff.

Project Team
Owner: Warmack Investments
Landscape Architecture: Clark Condon Associates, Houston
Fountain Designer: Greenscape Pump Services, Inc.
Fountain jet nozzles and LEDs: Fountain People.
Architect: Ziegler Cooper Architects
Associate Architect: Odell
General Contractor: D.E. Harvey Builders
Stone Contractor: Jody Chmelik, BSH Construction
Civil Engineering: Jones|Carter
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing: DBR
Structural Engineering: Cardno Haynes Whaley

As seen in LASN magazine, July 2016.

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